Last month in April, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) researchers completed the field work for the grouper aggregation study in several sites around Koror and Ngarchelong. The purpose of the research, led by PICRC researcher Lincy Lee Marino, is to understand the relationship between fishing pressure and its impact on three different grouper species which have seasonal fishing restrictions: meteungerel temekai (Brown-marbled grouper), ksau’l temekai (Camouflage grouper), and tiau (Squaretail coral grouper). The project is done in collaboration with Professor Peter Mumby of the University of Queensland, an adjunct researcher at PICRC.

The researchers surveyed Ngerumekaol Spawning Area in Koror State, and Ebiil Conservation Area, Btil Ngebard and Tnger in Ngarchelong State. Researchers dive in these areas and count each observed grouper, and make comparisons between conservation areas (Ngerumekaol and Ebiil) and open areas (Btil Ngebard and Tnger) to see if the grouper abundance lessens, remains the same, or becomes larger as the fishing season progresses. They conducted surveys four times over the course of the past year: July 2019, the known peak aggregation of these grouper species; October 2019, right before the beginning of the fishing season; January 2020, in the middle of the fishing season; and April 2020, at the end of the fishing season.

With all the field surveys completed, PICRC researchers are now analyzing the data and preparing the report of the results.

The Palau International Coral Reef Center’s mission is to guide natural resource management efforts using research and scientific data to help inform the people of Palau. This grouper aggregation survey could help both policymakers and community members make decisions in order to ensure that both present and future Palauans can enjoy these resources.